South Carolina: Charlie's Place

Quick Facts

Charlie’s Place is located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and served as a bustling pillar of business and Black night life. Charlie and Sarah Fitzgerald were the site’s owners and opened the business in 1937. It quickly became a popular stop along the “chitlin” circuit during the Jim Crow era. Chitlin circuits were nightclubs that popular Black artists of the time would perform or frequent. Musical greats such as Billie Holiday, Otis Redding, Little Richard, and The Drifters performed at these establishments across the South.  

The Fitzgeralds owned Charlie’s from the 1930’s into the early 1960’s. Located in the Booker T. Washington neighborhood, and positioned on Carver Street, it sat directly beside the Fitzgeralds’  family home, as well as a small hotel, both of which they owned.Many famous Black musical artists often performed at white-owned luxury hotels closer to the ocean front. However, those establishments usually prohibited Black performers from staying there. Built in 1948, the Fitzgerald Motel served black entertainers who could not stay in whites-only hotels. A few years after the Fitzgerald was built, both the motel and Charlie's Place were listed in the 1953 Green Book Airline Edition. Green Books, formerly known as “Negro Motorist Green Book,” provided Black travelers with a handy guide for safe places for food and lodging across the United States.Despite a growth in Black businesses, the advent of the Green Book and other travel guides, in addition to other initiatives to create safe spaces for African Americans, residents still suffered violent intimidation by white locals and officials.

On August 26, 1950 members of the Ku Klux Klan held a parade in the “Hill”, the neighborhood where Charlie’s Place was located. Later that day, members of the Klan returned and fired gunshots into the club. This resulted in a number of Black patrons being injured. Charlie Fitzgerald, owner of Charlie’s Place, was found severely beaten. Prominent civil rights attorney, Thurgood Marshall, assisted Mr. Fitzgerald and many of those injured in executing their legal rights. Marshall’s legal representation resulted in the Klansmen being charged, but they were never prosecuted.   

Charlie’s Place provided Black laborers, professionals, and locals alike a safe space to enjoy themselves after a long day’s work. Like many places in the Deep South affected by Jim Crow, African Americans created spaces for themselves in the face of rampant discrimination. At Charlie’s Place, Black visitors could always expect great music and an escape from the oppressive force of white supremacy, if only briefly. Both Charlie’s Place and the Fitzgerald Motel serve as permanent fixtures of the African American Civil Rights movement in South Carolina. The Fitzgerald Motel and family home were restored by the city of Myrtle Beach.

Charlie’s Place became part of the African American Civil Rights Network in June 2021.

The African American Civil Rights Network recognizes the civil rights movement in the United States and the sacrifices made by those who fought against discrimination and segregation. Created by the African American Civil Rights Act of 2017, and coordinated by the National Park Service, the Network tells the stories of the people, places, and events of the U.S. civil rights movement through a collection of public and private elements.

Last updated: June 28, 2021